For Romina Bravo, owner of Zanca Restaurant, success is not just in her name, it runs in the family.
After working in her family’s successful chain of restaurants, she and her husband opened Zanca, a Mexican restaurant earlier this summer that’s been packed ever since.
It’s hard to miss the new restaurant in town, not only because it’s smack dab in the middle of King Street downtown, but also because it offers up some culinary diversity. It’s Mexican. It’s authentic, and it’s delicious.
Bravo gets her inspiration from the food she grew up eating as a child in Zihuatanejo, Mexico — a beach town north west of Acapulco. That’s where the name of the restaurant comes from. Zanca means friend, but only in the region around Zihuatanejo.
“We say it like, ‘Hey buddy,’ or ‘Hey dude,’” she explains.
So if you’re a “zanca” to Bravo, you’ve made a real friend.
Since opening a new and diverse restaurant in town, Bravo says she already has a few regulars, or people she might call “zanca.”
What makes Bravo’s food so good is that she makes a mix of contemporary and traditional.
“In Mexico, it doesn’t matter where you come from, the food is always different,” says Bravo.
That’s what makes Mexican cuisine so beautiful — it’s original and versatile.
For instance, Bravo makes Tortilla Soup in a way that some people say is not traditional. To that she laughs and says, “It is traditional in my family, and in my region, and I’m Mexican!”
Bravo gets passionate about her food and its history. Guadalajara will have different flavours from areas near the border. Flour tortillas are popular in the north country near the border, and you’ll mostly find corn tortillas in central and southern Mexico.
The taco was invented because people had to work on farms, and “they weren’t going to stop to wash up before every meal,” explains Bravo. “It was easy for them to grab a taco or a tortilla, wrap up whatever they had leftover and go. That’s how the taco was started.”
The taco is truly central to many of the dishes you’ll find on the menu at Zanca.
Birra is a very traditional dish that originates from the centre of Mexico, and it’s the first menu item Bravo gushes about when talking about her food.
“It’s like a stew. And, it’s one dish that everyone should try. It’s shredded beef stewed in tomatoes, dried pepper sauce, red peppers and a mix of chillies and spices. We cook it for hours, shred it, save the consommé, and it melts in your mouth.”
Are you drooling yet?
Bravo also recommends the Alambres (or fajitas).
“They’re my favourite. I think it’s perfect: a lot of protein and a lot of cheese,” she says laughing. “There are tortillas on the side so you make your own tacos.”
Alambres are available with steak, chicken and adobo chicken, and can be made vegan.
One local vegan, and a fan of the food at Zanca also happens to be a staff member named Autumn Delorme. After living in Georgia in the U.S., Delorme says she has tried just about every kind of Mexican food out there.
“This is the best Mexican food I have ever had,” she says smiling under her mask.
Zanca is open Wednesday through Sunday from 5 to 9 p.m.